DuPont Co. has rejected a chance to negotiate confidentially with the Environmental Protection Agency over charges that it withheld data about health risks associated with fluoropolymer manufacturing, instead opting to make its case directly before an EPA court.
Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont had until Aug. 27 to request confidential talks with EPA investigators to settle accusations from the agency that it did not disclose data showing health risks from perfluorooctanoic acid, which is used to make fluoropolymers like Teflon.
In turning down negotiations, the company stuck to its earlier position that it disclosed everything that it was legally required to.
``We declined the alternative dispute-resolution process,'' said DuPont spokeswoman Catherine Andriadis. ``We've opted instead for the administrative law judge, who will now start that process.
``We fully and promptly reported all appropriate information regarding PFOA to the EPA.''
An EPA spokesman said the agency was willing to negotiate but had no comment on DuPont's decision. Any decision by the administrative law judge can be appealed to federal court.
In July, the agency formally charged DuPont with withholding internal studies that showed that PFOA had been found in the blood of pregnant workers at its fluoropolymer factory in Parkersburg, W.Va., in the 1980s, and that the company found PFOA in drinking water at levels above safety thresholds.
DuPont maintains it is only required to disclose data showing health risks. DuPont said the drinking-water levels exceeded only internal company standards, which were developed in 1992 in the absence of government regulations.
The Washington-based Environmental Working Group, which last year urged EPA to investigate the allegations against DuPont, said it will monitor the proceedings. An EWG spokeswoman said the group had no reaction to DuPont's decision, but is glad that the case now will proceed publicly.
EPA has said it may ask for a fine of several million dollars. The agency could ask for a fine of about $300 million.
DuPont disclosed in July that it had set aside $45 million in a reserve fund in connection with a PFOA class-action lawsuit in West Virginia.